Duties, Responsibilities, And Memorandum Of Understanding Discussed
By William Legault
The Salem Board of Registrars met last night at City Hall to discuss matters related to the recent voters rights issues that have been raised by the Salem Latino Leadership Coalition.
The issues are identified from the last two election cycles, but there has been a history of complaints by latino voters going back to the elections of 2005, according to the Latino Coalition.
In attendance were the registrars Chuck Barton, Don Bates, and Phil Saindow along with City Clerk Cheryl LaPointe. and City Solicitor Beth Rennard. Present as observers were Ana Nuncio of the Latino Leadership Coalition, Ward 1 City Councillor Bob McCarthy, Ward 2 City Councillor Heather Famico, Ward Four City Councillor Dave Eppley, and Councillor at-Large Elaine Milo.
First on the agenda was a discussion on the role of the registrars in the elections process.
Chairman Chuck Barton got the meeting underway and allowed comments by the other registrars.
Don Bates. Bate began by stating, “We are solely responsible for assuring that everyone has the opportunity to vote. We should not be involved on election day. It could create a conflict of interest especially in the event of a re-count.”
Registrar Saindow re-counted how he spent the election day of March 1 going from precinct to precinct. “Everybody appeared to be doing what they were supposed to be doing, there were no irregularities. We want to unify the city, not divide the city.” At this point Chairman Barton reminded everybody to stick to the agenda as published
After Saindow’s comments Bates asked a question of Councillor Bob McCarthy asking why the registrars were being invited to the City Council meeting of the Whole on Friday, March 29. McCarthy directed the question to Councillor Heather Famico who as the Chairperson of the Government Services Committee called the meeting.
Famico stated that the City Council simply wants to have a discussion with all interested and involved parties.
Beth Rennard, the City Solicitor was asked by Chairman Barton for her thoughts on the initial statement by Bates regarding the role and responsibilities of the Board. Rennard responded that “the coalition is trying to get the vote out, and that that is an important part of what the city clerk is supposed to do.” This prompted a response from City Clerk Cheryl LaPointe who stated that, “Voters have a responsibility to check their own eligibility.” She then listed a few of the tools that the city has in place to assist them in checking their eligibility.
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING DISCUSSION(MOU)
The questions that have been raised are about whether the board has a duty or responsibility to be involved at all in the MOU. Bates suggested that prior to deciding whether or not to s
ign it they should ask both the States Ethics Commission and the State Board of Electors for an opinion. Rennard stated that they could acknowledge the memorandum without accepting the responsibility. She also said that the ethics committee would just refer them back the her, the city solicitor. “I just doesn’t see where the problem is.” she said
Chairman Barton stated that when he did talk to the ethics commission on the matter he was told to speak with his city solicitor. Bates then suggested adding a paragraph that explains the registrars role and responsibility in the process, similar to what the Salem Police Department had done. Rennard identified that as a qualifying statement.
It was agreed that the board needed to get together with the Latino Coalition to identify and discuss the issue directly so as understand and acknowledge the MOU. “We need to look at the MOU a little bit more.” said Saindow. Famico reminded them that any revised MOU would need to come again before the city council.
It was agreed that Rennard would draft the new language to add to the MOU for consideration at a future meeting. No specific date was set for that meeting.